Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka has said she is “not really sure” the delayed Tokyo Olympics should go ahead as the city battles a surge of coronavirus cases less than three months before the start of the Games.
A virus state of emergency in the Japanese capital and other parts of the country was extended last week as organisers weigh up whether to press ahead in the face of mounting pressure to cancel the global spectacle.
When asked if it was correct to host the Games in the middle of a global pandemic, the 23-year-old reigning US and Australian women’s champion told the BBC “to be honest, I’m not really sure” if they should be held as planned from July 23.
“I’m an athlete, and of course my immediate thought is that I want to play in the Olympics,” the four-time Grand Slam winner said at the Rome WTA tournament.
“But as a human, I would say we’re in a pandemic, and if people aren’t healthy, and if they’re not feeling safe, then it’s definitely a really big cause for concern.”
More than 10,000 athletes from 200 countries and regions are set to travel to Tokyo for the Games, with a decision expected in June on how many domestic fans, if any at all, can attend.
“I’ve never played an Olympic event, so it’s not like I would have anything to compare it to,” Osaka said of the possibility of no spectators.
Despite a smaller death toll than many countries, Japan’s vaccine rollout is moving slowly and some areas have seen record cases as more infectious variants drive fresh waves of contagion.
More than 300,000 people have signed a online petition launched last week titled “Cancel the Tokyo Olympics to protect our lives” in a bid to sway the government and Olympic officials.